Alphabet recognition is a crucial skill for toddlers and preschoolers to learn, and it serves as the foundation of reading and writing. This post explores the typical developmental curve for alphabet recognition and provides fun, age-appropriate, low-cost ways for your child to master this skill.
If your child is 2 to 3 years old, he or she may sing the alphabet song — but can’t yet identify letters. About 20 percent of children can recognize a few letters by age 3, often the letter that starts his or her own first name as well as other letters contained within the name. You may also notice that some of your child’s scribbles are starting to look like letters, especially the first letter of his or her name.
To help your child gain competency, encourage the singing of the alphabet song and look through books together that share information about letters. Consider providing your child with magnetic letters and other play materials that encourage learning of the alphabet. PBS.org provides more information about child development in this arena, while Teaching2and3YearOlds.com provides suggestions for fun ways to encourage toddlers to learn the alphabet.
By the time children are an older 4, 60 percent know more than half of uppercase letters and five to 10 lowercase ones. About 30 percent can recognize all letters, both upper and lower. Preschoolers often notice letters in their environment and understand that letters are related to sounds, which is an insight known as the “alphabetic principle.” They also recognize that numbers and letters are distinctively different in purpose, while letters that are similar in shape (p/q and b/d) are still often confusing. You can find more developmental information at PBS.org.
HandsOnAsWeGrow.com provides 50 alphabet activities for your preschooler to enjoy, including Squirt the Letter. In this game, parents write random letters on the chalkboard. Also have on hand alphabet blocks and ask your child to match what he or she sees on the chalkboard with what appears on a block. When your child makes a good match, then he or she can squirt the chalkboard with water in a spray bottle to make the letter disappear.
Another recommended game is Trash Can Alphabet Review. You simply take scraps of paper and write a letter on each one, using a marker (or you could use crayons or whatever else you have on hand). Point to a letter and ask your child to identify it; when the correct answer is given, your youngster can crumple up the paper and toss it into the waste can. Once the game is over, you can smooth out the scraps and play again when desired. You can also check out the other 48 suggestions given in the article.
When the weather is nice, it’s only natural to want your children to get outside and play. On those days, here is a simple game from ICanTeachMyChild.com that can help to teach your pre-K children the alphabet. Take sidewalk chalk and create a pathway of letters on your sidewalk or driveway. Let your child ride his or her bike over this path, singing the alphabet song as he or she rides over each letter. Do the same thing as your child walks along the path (or skips or jumps or whatever else works).
And, here’s a game you can play outdoors (or move indoors). Take masking tape and create letters. Then, let your child actively play with the letters. This writer’s child loves to take toy cars and use the masking tape as letter-shaped roads — and you can casually work the name of the letter into conversation as your child is playing on it.